Tree spirits (my son’s story)

My older son (5year old) told me a story in the car on our way home from his kindergarten today. We were talking about his trip to the nearby forest with his class. Then he started:
“So, do you know there is spirit (kami- in Japanese) in every tree?”
“Oh, is that so? No wonder we feel soooo good in the forest!”
“Yeah…sometimes there are more than one spirit in one tree…one, two, and five and ten and eighteen…when they are so big like this (trying to show his body as the big tree), there are so many! (with an excitement)”
“oh…That’s the reason why we feel good when we come to the big trees!”

Then I was inspired to tell him the story I heard from our tour guide in Yakushima, Japan, the world heritage island with amazing primeval forest. In old days, people there used to cut trees only after certain rituals. They plant the new tree and offered some sake and salt and asked the spirit to move to the new tree. If the ax they put along the tree stays upright over night, it is ok to cut it and they went ahead. When he was young, there was one man who cut a beautiful stand alone tree without this ritual and went mad to be hospitalized. Accordining to him, there are many similar stories such as this. My son listened to this story very quietly and added a little more.

“Well, when people cut down the trees, all these spirits need to move to the other tree. If the tree is so big, there are ten spirits who need to move. They need to move their beds, too. The big tree which was cut down in our aparment was sick. The spirit could not live in the sick houses. So they moved to the next tree.”
I was nodding with a deep respect to him. He remebered that a beautiful old tree was cut down the other day.

“But you know? Angels don’t need beds as they are all flying in the sky.”
“Oh, they don’t sleep in the beds?”
“They are always flying and can go anywhere.”
“That’s convinient. So if they want to move, it is so much easier!”

So our tree conversation ended there. It touched me deeply and amazed how much wisdom he has to share with us, adults. I want to hear more stories such as this from my son and hope I am open to receive his wisdom. It will be wonderful to share these children’s stories to remind us (parents, adults) what we might easily forget.


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